16 Ways to Make the Most of Counseling — From Counselors Themselves

16 Ways to Make the Most of Counseling — From Counselors Themselves

By Sarah Schuster

If going to counseling is something you’re thinking about or a pursuit you’ve just begun, it can be a daunting process if you don’t know what to expect. So we teamed up with the experts — members of the American Counseling Association — to get you the inside scoop on what to expect from counseling, and some advice for people who’ve just begun.

Be proud of yourself for taking that first step. Now here’s some advice for making the most of it: 

1.Open up at your own pace. If you don’t feel like ‘telling it all’ in the first few sessions, that’s OK. Your counselor really wants to get to know you, not just the issue that brought you to counseling.” — Kim Slater, M.S. Ed., L.C.P.C.S

2. “It’s completely normal to feel somewhat on edge about what you’re doing, especially when you’re not quite sure what to expect. To ease this feeling of uncertainty, prior to meeting with your counselor, write down all of the questions you have about the counseling process, the specific counselor you are meeting with and about payment, outside session communications, cancellation policies, etc. And if at any time you get the sense you’re not clicking with your counselor, that’s OK! Trust the counseling process and don’t give up.” — Tara Finau, LPC

3.Manage expectations. What do you, as a client, seek to achieve? Communicate that to the counselor and then discuss how that goal might be achieved long-term.” — John P. Duggan, M.A., NCC, LPC, LCPC

4. “Be honest! There are so many people you can lie to for free, why would you pay to lie to a therapist? If you feel that your therapist is judging you, or is uncomfortable with the topic, you need to find another therapist.” — Elaine Wilco, LPC

5. “Begin to develop a rapport with your counselor. Start by getting to know them and asking questions. A good relationship with your counselor will help maximize your experience and overall success. — Danielle A. Irving, M.A.

6. “As you begin counseling, prepare for the possibility of feeling some emotional discomfort as you learn to approach problems in ways that might be unfamiliar for you. Just as you might experience physical discomfort when beginning a new exercise program, you might feel a little uneasy as you begin working through sensitive issues using new mental techniques and strategies. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you have thoughts, ideas, suggestions or concerns!” — Erin T. Shifflett, MLA, M.Ed.

7. “Therapy is a journey of self-discovery and self-understanding. Allow yourself to be in ‘the here and now,’ and be open to really experiencing and exploring your thoughts and feelings. Be clear and honest in the counseling session. Allow yourself to be truly vulnerable and open to this journey of self-discovery — that’s how you’ll get the best results.” — Alexia Pilleris, M.S.

8. “Remember, you are in a safe and comforting environment. This is your time and your time only so make the most of it. Your counselor is on your side.” — Tanairy Fernandez, MS.Ed, LMHC, NCC

9. “Try your best to be honest about present and past events and thoughts. At times, clients approach initial sessions gingerly. They often minimize quantity, frequency or extent of feelings, behaviors or events. Being open and honest creates a healthy environment and helps establish trust.” — Dr. John D. Massella; LPC, NCC, CCS, CCDP

10. “Counseling is a collaborative process, but you are the expert on yourself. If you would like something to be different about your sessions (for example, different amount of focus on one issue compared to another), please ask.” — Lauren C. Ostrowski, MA, LPC, NCC, DCC

11. “Counseling is most helpful when we can share as openly, honestly and directly as much of our thoughts, feelings and behaviors as possible. Only then can we identify areas of challenge and success.” — Melissa Luke, Associate Professor, Coordinator of School Counseling, Syracuse University.

12. “Counseling is a process. I don’t have a magic wand or a magic pill, but I will walk with you on the journey of discovering who you are and where you want life to go. You have already taken the first step. Above all, please remember you are human and that is enough. You are enough.” — Lisa Taylor-Austin, NCC, LPC, LMHC, CFMHE, LLC

13. “Remember it’s unlikely your problems developed overnight, so don’t expect them to go away in that amount of time, either. Be realistic about the timeframe it takes to root out the causes of psychological distress. Give counseling at least 90 days (once-a-week appointments). By then you should know if what you’re doing is helping.” —  Ryan Thomas Neace, MA, LPC, NCC, CCMHC

14. “Your counselor may assign ‘homework’ for you to do between sessions. Homework could include things like journaling, mood tracking, breathing exercises or other tasks. While this might be new for you, it can be a really important part of your treatment. But if you don’t do your homework or if you have trouble with it, be up front with your counselor. He or she can make adjustments.” — Gina Della Penna

15. “It’s important to understand you will get more results from counseling if you actively participate in the process. Remember, counseling is your journey to hope, healing and feeling better about yourself and life. Enjoy your journey!” — Dr. LaWanda N. Evans, Licensed Professional Counselor

16. “This is unlike any other relationship you probably have. In friendships it’s socially appropriate to give and take — you talk, then I talk, you share, then I share, and so on. Counseling is different because the focus will be on you. Sometimes you may struggle with what to talk about. This is OK. No one wants to experience pain, but through pain, there is growth. If you are truly doing the work, expect to leave some sessions feeling drained, overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted. This means you are on your way to healing. It’s something to be celebrated.” — Tracy S. Hutchinson, Ph.D., LMHC

If you would like to talk with a counselor, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003.

When I Don’t Feel Love For My Spouse

When I Don’t Feel Love For My Spouse

By Steve Cornell

A woman once told me that she planned to leave her husband because she “just didn’t love him anymore.” I asked her to change the way she worded what she planned to do so that her decision could be understood accurately. I asked her to say it this way: “I am choosing to no longer value my husband and to break my commitment to remain faithful to him.”

She declined to word her decision this way but insisted on using terms that made her appear to be a victim of feelings she could not change. She also thought her decision was actually virtuous in its honesty and in her refusal to be a hypocrite.

Being and Behaving in Love

When performing weddings, I raise this question: “What is it that draws people together to be married?” Most answer with one word: love. Yes, love draws us together. But what is love? Is it something we can fall into and fall out of? Is it chemistry? Infatuation? Is it an emotional response or a choice?

Over the years, people have told me they want to be married because they love each other. I’ve also had people (like this woman) tell me that they want out of their marriage because they no longer feel love for their mate.

This has led me to ask some serious questions about the nature of love. In my evaluation, I’ve concluded that we need to distinguish two dimensions of love.

Being in love. This dimension is the emotional attraction of love. It’s what people mean when they speak of “falling in love.” It’s usually based on more superficial reactions to appearance and first impressions. Clearly, it’s a natural part of human attraction. Though not necessarily wrong, it’s not enough to sustain a meaningful and lasting relationship. It’s far too superficial. Deeply satisfying relationships are built on the second dimension of love.

Behaving in love. This dimension does not depend on feelings and chemistry. It’s the love of volition. It’s the choice to respond to my mate in a loving manner, regardless of feelings. This dimension of love is a choice to value my mate and seek his or her best. While I can’t always make myself feel a certain way, I can always choose to act in a loving way.

In the context of marriage, the distinction between these two dimensions is very important to understand. Most relationships start with a high dose of the being dimension of love and, in most relationships, this feeling diminishes with time. When this happens, the key to keeping the flame of love burning is not pursuing a feeling but deciding to value the other person and be devoted to his or her best—no matter what one feels.

It’s a choice to act in love even when we don’t feel love. I realize that to many people this sounds almost like a great sin. It sounds as if I am advocating some form of dishonesty but, surprisingly, when we choose to love, the feelings often follow the actions!

Cultural Barrier

We must confront a cultural barrier that threatens this understanding of love. Our culture sends a strong message telling us that above all else, we must be true to our feelings. To do anything else, we’re told, would simply be dishonest and hypocritical. So it has become a mark of good character to be true to your feelings.

This cultural ethic is often used to give people a false sense of virtue when breaking deep commitments. By “avoiding hypocrisy” and “being honest enough to admit the loss of feelings,” they feel justified—perhaps even virtuous—in breaking their wedding vows.

There is a deep and self-destructive deception in this line of reasoning. It implies that we are somehow victims of our feelings, incapable of mastering them. Feelings come and go with changes in the weather.

But do you go to work only when you feel like going? Do athletes or great musicians only practice when they feel like it? We simply cannot live a healthy and productive life if we let our feelings master us. This is especially true regarding relationships.

If we hope to experience deep and lasting relationships as intended by God, love must be understood as an action more than a feeling.

Remember that God demonstrated his love for us not because we are a warm, lovable group of people whom he could not resist. Instead, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This is the kind of love husbands are commanded to show toward their wives (Ephesians 5:25).

Reflect often on this distinction between being in love and behaving in love. Use this for conversation as couples, in small groups, and with those preparing for marriage.

Reflect also on the best definition of love available to humanity.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:1-8a)

If you are struggling with your marriage, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

How Can I Protect My Child From Sexual Assault?

How Can I Protect My Child From Sexual Assault?

By RAINN

Sexual abuse can happen to children of any race, socioeconomic group, religion or culture. There is no foolproof way to protect children from sexual abuse, but there are steps you can take to reduce this risk. If something happens to your child, remember that the perpetrator is to blame—not you and especially not the child. Below you’ll find some precautions you can take to help protect the children in your life.

If your child is in immediate danger, don’t hesitate to call 911. If you aren’t sure of the situation but you suspect the child is being harmed, you can take steps to gauge the situation and put an end to the abuse.

Be involved in the child’s life.

Being actively involved in a child’s life can make warning signs of child sexual abuse more obvious and help the child feel more comfortable coming to you if something isn’t right. If you see or hear something that causes concern, you can take action to protect your child.

  • Show interest in their day-to-day lives. Ask them what they did during the day and who they did it with. Who did they sit with at lunchtime? What games did they play after school? Did they enjoy themselves?
  • Get to know the people in your child’s life. Know who your child is spending time with, including other children and adults. Ask your child about the kids they go to school with, the parents of their friends, and other people they may encounter, such as teammates or coaches. Talk about these people openly and ask questions so that your child can feel comfortable doing the same.
  • Choose caregivers carefully. Whether it’s a babysitter, a new school, or an afterschool activity, be diligent about screening caregivers for your child.
  • Talk about the media. Incidents of sexual violence are frequently covered by the news and portrayed in television shows. Ask your child questions about this coverage to start a conversation. Questions like, “Have you ever heard of this happening before?” or “What would you do if you were in this situation?” can signal to your child that these are important issues that they can talk about with you. Learn more about talking to your kids about sexual assault.
  • Know the warning signs. Become familiar with the warning signs of child sexual abuse, and notice any changes with your child, no matter how small. Whether it’s happening to your child or a child you know, you have the potential to make a big difference in that person’s life by stepping in.

Encourage children to speak up.

When someone knows that their voice will be heard and taken seriously, it gives them the courage to speak up when something isn’t right. You can start having these conversations with your children as soon as they begin using words to talk about feelings or emotions. Don’t worry if you haven’t started conversations around these topics with your child—it is never too late.

  • Teach your child about boundaries. Let your child know that no one has the right to touch them or make them feel uncomfortable — this includes hugs from grandparents or even tickling from mom or dad. It is important to let your child know that their body is their own. Just as importantly, remind your child that they do not have the right to touch someone else if that person does not want to be touched.
  • Teach your child how to talk about their bodies. From an early age, teach your child the names of their body parts. Teaching a child these words gives them the ability to come to you when something is wrong. Learn more about talking to children about sexual assault.
  • Be available. Set time aside to spend with your child where they have your undivided attention. Let your child know that they can come to you if they have questions or if someone is talking to them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. If they do come to you with questions or concerns, follow through on your word and make the time to talk.
  • Let them know they won’t get in trouble. Many perpetrators use secret-keeping or threats as a way of keeping children quiet about abuse. Remind your child frequently that they will not get in trouble for talking to you, no matter what they need to say. When they do come to you, follow through on this promise and avoid punishing them for speaking up.
  • Give them the chance to raise new topics. Sometimes asking direct questions like, “Did you have fun?” and “Was it a good time?” won’t give you the answers you need. Give your child a chance to bring up their own concerns or ideas by asking open-ended questions like “Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?”

Warning Signs for Sexual Abuse of Young Children

Warning Signs for Young Children

By RAINN

Every 8 minutes, government authorities respond to another report of child sexual abuse.1 Child sexual abuse can include sexual contact with a child, but it may also include other actions, like exposing oneself, sharing obscene images, or taking inappropriate photos or videos of a child. These crimes can have a serious impact of the life and development of a child, and can continue to impact the survivor later in life. Learning the warning signs of child sexual abuse is often the first step to protecting a child that is in danger. If you can spot sexual abuse, you can stop it.

Signs that a child may have been sexually abused

It’s not always easy to spot sexual abuse because perpetrators often take steps to hide their actions. Some signs are easier to spot than others. For instance, some warning signs might be noticed by a caretaker or parent, and are often red flags that the child needs medical attention. Listen to your instincts. If you notice something that isn’t right or someone is making you uncomfortable—even if you can’t put your finger on why—it’s important to talk to the child.

Physical warning signs:

Behavioral signs:

  • Sexual behavior that is inappropriate for the child’s age
  • Bedwetting or soiling the bed, if the child has already outgrown these behaviors
  • Not wanting to be left alone with certain people or being afraid to be away from primary caregivers, especially if this is a new behavior
  • Tries to avoid removing clothing to change or bathe

Emotional signs:

  • Excessive talk about or knowledge of sexual topics
  • Resuming behaviors that they had grown out of, such as thumbsucking
  • Nightmares or fear of being alone at night
  • Excessive worry or fearfulness

Signs that an adult may be hurting a child

Keeping children safe can be challenging since many perpetrators who sexually abuse children are in positions of trust—93 percent of child sexual assault victims know the perpetrator.2 Keeping a child away from the perpetrator may mean major changes in your own life, even if you are outside of the child’s family.

Be cautious of an adult who spend time with children and exhibits the following behaviors:

  • Does not respect boundaries or listen when someone tells them “no”
  • Engages in touching that a child or child’s parents/guardians have indicated is unwanted
  • Tries to be a child’s friend rather than filling an adult role in the child’s life
  • Does not seem to have age-appropriate relationships
  • Talks with children about their personal problems or relationships
  • Spends time alone with children outside of their role in the child’s life or makes up excuses to be alone with the child
  • Expresses unusual interest in child’s sexual development, such as commenting on sexual characteristics or sexualizing normal behaviors
  • Gives a child gifts without occasion or reason
  • Spends a lot of time with your child or another child you know

Taking action isn’t easy, but it’s important

It’s not always easy to identify child sexual abuse—and it can be even more challenging to step in if you suspect something isn’t right. If a child tells you that someone makes them uncomfortable, even if they can’t tell you anything specific, listen. Talk to someone who can help you figure out if this is something that must be reported, such as a staff member from your local sexual assault service provider. In the meantime, if you are the parent or have influence over the child’s schedule, avoid putting the child in a potentially unsafe situation.

Remember, you are not alone. If you suspect sexual abuse you can talk to someone who is trained to help. Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org.

Embracing Anxiety to Exterminate Anxiety

Embracing Anxiety to Exterminate Anxiety

By Dr. Henry Cloud

The chills are eating me from the inside-out. I can barely feel my hands, gripped tight to the steering wheel as they are, and what I can feel is coated with clammy perspiration. My heart is racing in a flurry of shuddering beats. Instead of being warmed by the heat blasting from the vents in my car, cold blankets my skin, and I might as well have been exposed to the elements in the thick of winter. Blinking twice, I remind myself that I’m not dying — yet.

Driving somewhere new. Going to an interview. Calling a business on the phone. Meeting new people. They can all make my hands shake and my skin crawl. The anxiety wells up like blood in a fresh cut and spills over into my whole body, paralyzing my senses and making it difficult to talk, and even walk.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health[1], anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. Myself, and an estimated 40 million other people, live a not insignificant amount of our lives in a state of mortal panic.

Anxiety is the “fight-or-flight” reflex[2] built into our physiological systems. This means that, when we’re anxious, our fight-or-flight response charges our metabolism and prepares us for what has been deemed the inevitable: an all-out battle, or a mad dash. This is one of those adaptations that seems beneficial to other mammals, but humans? Personally, I don’t have to literally fight for my life with any regularity.

Anxiety may be our fight-or-flight response, but that doesn’t mean we have to let it be our only response, nor must we be defeated by its chilly grip. In fact, engaging that chilly grip is one method of — believe it or not — extinguishing it. I may not be able to escape my anxiety, but by embracing it I have a chance to let it exist without owning my existence. As my hands begin to shake and my palms sweat, rather than turn a blind eye to my body’s reaction and let it run its wild course, I take the chance to step back and observe its approach.

As the cold takes over I allow myself to mentally take flight, observing my physical reactions to insignificant stimuli with interest and curiosity. When anxiety sets your heart racing, don’t simply ignore that absurd cadence. Instead, stare it down, consider it, mull over why your body is responding in such a way, and understand that its response is out of proportion to the situation. The physical feelings of anxiety tend to ebb and flow differently for every person. Figuring out the when, how, and why of your overwhelming anxiety is the first step to embracing it — and then, ultimately, to exterminating it.

By understanding your body, you give your mind the chance to take back control, and when your mind comprehends the situation, your emotions inevitably will follow suit. You may not be facing a literal lion when your anxiety kicks in, but that anxiety itself may be the real lion. By acknowledging its existence and giving the physiology behind it a nod, you can conquer one side of your anxiety disorder. Anxiety often plays off of uncertainty, and by being certain that you don’t need to be anxious you can help to lessen its damaging- and deeply uncomfortable- physical effects.

The next time your body thinks it needs to fight or fly, embrace that instinct. When I do that, my mind stays in control, my emotional state doesn’t waver, and eventually my anxiety subsides.

What I Learned When My Son Was Diagnosed With An Eating Disorder

What I Learned When My Son Was Diagnosed With An Eating Disorder

By Maggie Graham

When my 17-year-old son was diagnosed with an eating disorder, it happened without warning. I liken it to getting hit in the head with a 2×4: I didn’t see it coming and it knocked me flat. The months following his revelation were some of my darkest, and they were also a time when I learned more about myself than perhaps any other time in my life.

I wanted to pick apart everything about his treatment, micromanage it and find fault with anything and anyone besides myself.

I sat across from my son’s therapist during our initial meeting, resenting her barely moments after I met her. “What does this Barbie doll know about my son?” I thought arrogantly. Everything she said grated on my nerves, like fingernails on a chalkboard. I hated the way she said “behaviors” to refer to bingeing and restricting food, often using air quotes.

I didn’t like how she called me “Mom.” “I’m not your mom,” I wanted to shout (even though I knew what she meant, how she was using shorthand to include me in the conversation). “Take the time to learn my name,” I wanted to yell at her even though that detail was the most irrelevant thing in our conversation. Somehow, harping on it gave me something concrete to hold onto, something I could criticize someone else (besides myself) for.

She interrupted me as if what I said wasn’t important (excuse me, am I not the person who knows my son best?!). I felt like a visitor to a foreign country, disoriented, grasping for landmarks and direction.

Mercifully, I bit my tongue. I never actually yelled at her (except in my head). Instead, I asked terse, concrete questions, and I exited quickly, leaving my credit card number and insurance information with the receptionist at the treatment center.

Some part of me knew that my son had his own relationship with his therapist, that I didn’t get to construct or script it, and the biggest contribution I could make to his healing was to not sabotage his therapeutic alliance with her, not matter how much I wanted to be right about her being poorly suited to help him.

Later, I realized that I was deflecting a volatile cocktail of my own emotions: Blame and anger, guilt and shame. It was easier to pick her apart, to find fault with her clinical skills, to shoot her down as a poor match for my son, to claim he was special and needed something else — that was easier to looking my own shame in the eye.

“This is the person I’m rowing with,” I thought about my son’s therapist. “We’ve got to row in the same direction.”

I let my objections stay. I watched myself resent her beauty and her youth and her mannerisms. I didn’t beat myself up about how focused I was on picking her apart, but I also didn’t act from those observations and impulses. I harkened back to learning how to meditate. That was when I was introduced to the idea that thoughts can be observed like clouds in the sky, passing overhead with some detachment, no need to react to them. “Don’t mistake the weather for the sky,” become my mantra.

I wanted to pick apart everything about his treatment, micromanage it and find fault with anything and anyone besides myself.

I grieved the relationship I thought I had with my son, and I turned towards co-creating a new relationship with him.

“This is not my son,” I thought, my brain rejecting what he was telling me. My son doesn’t hide things from me. He’s not losing massive amounts of weight without my noticing. He’s not so lost that he has veered away from us.

It was like someone told me the sun rose in the west. “No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t,” my brain insisted. Even as irrefutable evidence stared me in the face.

Who was this person in front of me? Where was the baby I nursed? The toddler I bathed? The child I read bedtime stories to? The adolescent I drove to school? Where was he? Because that person, the one I clung to in my mind, was gone, replaced by the body snatchers when I turned my head. And I had only looked away for a moment. Somehow I had blinked, I let my attention stray, and I didn’t see him slip away.

I let myself sob. My son held my hand as he confessed how he had spiraled downward into a dangerous eating disorder in the past months. And I turned to face the person who was sitting in front of me, opening himself up for me to see.

“This is where we begin,” I thought.

I had to learn how to manage my own guilt and anxiety.

In the months following my son’s diagnosis, I slept very little. I had a laundry list of physical symptoms that pointed directly to stress and anxiety. I raced to a therapist and scrambled to line up treatment for myself: neurofeedback, a prescription for Xanax, another for Lexapro, meditation, yoga, daily exercise.

It was like someone told me the sun rose in the west.

Ironically, as my son was healing, climbing out of his hole, I slid downward, belatedly experiencing my own guilt, sadness, and pain as my son’s trials of the past few months surfaced, and I recognized how much I had missed about his struggles and pain. Cue massive guilt with a volatile twist of anxiety.

I learned some tough lessons in those dark months:

  • I could not turn to my son to absolve me of my guilt. I had to work that out on my own with the help of my therapist and coach.
  • There’s a difference between experiencing emotion and reacting to it, and understanding this distinction took massive patience and practice.
  • I leaned heavily on a practice called “mental hygiene,” where I excavated my own underlying beliefs, bringing them to the surface so that I could dissect how they were fueling my runaway anxiety.

Look, I know it sounds dramatic, and that’s okay because it still feels true. If I didn’t learn how to recognize, turn towards, and manage my own fear and guilt, it would have run me over like a Mack truck. It still knocked me down, left me reeling, and sometimes chewed me up.

I remember when my coach asked me what was good about my son’s downward spiral and diagnosis. I really couldn’t compute that question, and it took me a while to find the silver lining. It’s here, though.

His pain, struggle and dip into blackness challenged me to really learn to take care of myself. It provided a doorway for me to wade into my own darkness and do my own healing. I would say that it woke me up. It was a harsh wake-up, like the sound of a fire alarm going off in the middle of the night, disturbing and traumatic, but something that cannot be ignored. I couldn’t go back to sleep, couldn’t return to complacency, afterward. For that, I’m grateful, and I’m turning to face forward.

How to Thrive When One Spouse is Traveling Solo

How to Thrive When One Spouse is Traveling Solo

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

For many couples, it’s difficult to fathom either of you traveling on your own after you get married. Especially during the early years of marriage, it feels almost painfully essential to remain in one another’s presence at all times. And while it’s ideal for you to be able to travel together as often as possible, there will be times when one of you travels alone, and the other stays home.

Some couples are perfectly comfortable with this idea; others are not. Today, we’re going to give you some tips for helping your relationship thrive when one of you is on the road (or in the air) alone.

BEFORE THE TRIP

Get it All Out in the Open: If you’re feeling uneasy about the fact that you or your spouse is going to be traveling solo in the near future, get that out in the open. Have an honest conversation with your spouse about your nervousness, and come up with a game plan to alleviate as much of that anxiety as possible. Simply discussing the things you’re feeling worried about can take a huge amount of pressure off both of you.

Tie Up Loose Ends at Home: Work together to make sure everything will be taken care of at home during the trip. If you have kids, make sure to line up adequate childcare so there will be plenty of help available for whichever of you is staying home. Stock the kitchen with disposable dishes and plasticware to reduce dish-washing, go grocery shopping beforehand, work together to get the laundry in order, and plan some meals ahead of time (make-ahead freezer meals can save a lot of time when you’re going it alone at home!).

Make a Communication Game Plan: Based on travel activities, obligations, and scheduling, make a game plan with your spouse when it comes to communicating regularly with each other. If you’re traveling to a conference or work-related event and you know you’ll have limited talk time, let your spouse know up front and make sure to be available via text message to keep the lines of communication open.

DURING THE TRIP

Pretend You’re Dating Again: Remember that old saying, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”? And remember your dating days, where you would pine for one another when you were apart? You couldn’t wait to hear one another’s voices, and you savored each phone call. Enjoy messaging and talking to one another when you’re able to.

Share Good News: When you communicate with each other, be sure to exchange positive experiences from the road and from home. Give your good energy to one another, even while you’re separated. Be happy for one another, and cheer each other on. Being supportive and pleasant when you talk goes a long way toward making each travel experience just a little bit easier. (But, as always, lend an ear, some positive affirmations, and a giant dose of empathy for your spouse if they’re having a difficult time–at home or on the road.)

Anticipate Your Reunion: There’s something so special about the anticipation that builds as you get closer to seeing one another again after a time of being apart. Share that anticipation with each other. Let your spouse know you miss them, and that you’ll be so happy when you’re back home together. Make plans for the homecoming; a romantic evening together could be just what you need to unwind from the time apart.

AFTER THE TRIP

Enjoy One Another: You made it through the trip! Now is the perfect time to refocus on each other. Take some extra time to lavish attention on one another and enjoy being together again. If you have kids, plan a special family outing to celebrate all of you finally being home. Or go out on that special date night you’ve been dreaming about.

Talk About Next Time: What worked? What didn’t? How can you work together to make the next time easier for both of you? Chat about how things went, both on the road and at home, and look for ways to alleviate any issues that came up during the trip. Then, next time there’s an opportunity for travel, things will go more smoothly than ever!

If You Give a Husband a Kiss

If You Give a Husband a Kiss

This mom turned “When You Give a Mouse a Cookie” into “When You Give a Husband a Kiss”… and it’s kind of amazing!

By Leah Heffner

If you give your husband a kiss, he’ll probably want a hug to go with it.

You’ll nestle your head under his chin, and just breathe him in.

The smell will remind you of when you first started dating and you didn’t want to be anywhere else but nestled under his chin.

You’ll think back on some of your favorite first dates – ice cream, pancakes, holding hands in front of your friends.

Before you can get too carried away, a toddler will probably squeeeeeeze his way in between your legs, breaking apart your hug.

You’ll open your eyes to see breakfast dishes that need cleaned up, kids who need noses or butts wiped, and the million other tiny and enormous things you do every day.

You’ll see the little babies running around and the messes and pile of bills and the work shirts.

You’ll see the rogue marker marks and mountain of laundry and the inch thick dust bunnies.

You might be so overwhelmed, you won’t know where to start.

You’ll see all the ways your life is different now than it was when it was late-night pancake dates and ice cream runs.

So you’ll take a deep breath, whisper a prayer, take a drink of coffee, and just start on something.

You’ll get so caught up in what’s going on around you, you’ll miss talking to your husband before he leaves for work.

You’ll start to say goodbye as he leaves, when you notice the baby has had a blow out.

After you change the diaper, you’ll wash your hands, and notice your wedding ring.

Your wedding ring will remind you of your wedding, and the man that you married.

You’ll think again of all the ways life is different now than it was when he slipped that ring on your finger.

And then you’ll think of all the ways it’s still the same, just like when you nestled your head under his chin.

You’ll hear the door to the garage shut and realize your husband’s leaving for work.

You’ll realize you don’t want to miss giving him one more hug before he leaves this morning.

So you’ll run out into the driveway looking like a hot mess.

He’ll smile because he thinks you’re beautiful, and you’ll still not understand how much he means it.

You’ll probably smile back, trying to pick one out of a million things you could say.

Instead, you’ll decide to give him a hug.

And chances are, if you give your husband a hug, YOU’LL want a kiss to go with it.

 

If you would like help with your marriage relationship, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

The Busier You Are, the More You Need Quiet Time

The Busier You Are, the More You Need Quiet Time

By Justin Talbot-Zorn and Leigh Marz

Recent studies are showing that taking time for silence restores the nervous system, helps sustain energy, and conditions our minds to be more adaptive and responsive to the complex environments in which so many of us now live, work, and lead. Duke Medical School’s Imke Kirste recently found that silence is associated with the development of new cells in the hippocampus, the key brain region associated with learning and memory. Physician Luciano Bernardi found that two-minutes of silence inserted between musical pieces proved more stabilizing to cardiovascular and respiratory systems than even the music categorized as “relaxing.” And a 2013 study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, based on a survey of 43,000 workers, concluded that the disadvantages of noise and distraction associated with open office plans outweighed anticipated, but still unproven, benefits like increasing morale and productivity boosts from unplanned interactions…

Even incredibly busy people can cultivate periods of sustained quiet time. Here are four practical ideas:

1) Punctuate meetings with five minutes of quiet time. If you’re able to close the office door, retreat to a park bench, or find another quiet hideaway, it’s possible to hit reset by engaging in a silent practice of meditation or reflection.

2) Take a silent afternoon in nature. You need not be a rugged outdoors type to ditch the phone and go for a simple two-or-three-hour jaunt in nature. In our own experience and those of many of our clients, immersion in nature can be the clearest option for improving creative thinking capacities. Henry David Thoreau went to the woods for a reason.

3) Go on a media fast. Turn off your email for several hours or even a full day, or try “fasting” from news and entertainment. While there may still be plenty of noise around—family, conversation, city sounds—you can enjoy real benefits by resting the parts of your mind associated with unending work obligations and tracking social media or current events…

For the full article, check out the HBR site.

If you would like help cultivating silence and quiet to reduce some of your stress, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

What to Do When Hobbies Steal Your Spouse

What to Do When Hobbies Steal Your Spouse

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Last week, we talked about the importance of sharing hobbies and activities with your spouse. It’s great when the two of you can find common ground and cultivate shared activities, but what happens when your spouse is completely consumed by his or her own hobbies?

While it can make life interesting to be married to someone who is so deeply engaged with an activity they love, it can quickly become difficult. Once the honeymoon period has passed, you might find that your spouse begins to gradually move toward his or her favorite pastime–eventually favoring it over spending time together.

There comes a point in a person’s passion for their hobby when that passion goes beyond a healthy level of interest. A passionate interest can take over their personality and their life (and yours, too!). It can feel totally intimidating when you feel like you have to compete with something your spouse is obsessed with.

If your spouse’s favorite hobby or activity has stolen them from your marriage, it may be time to address the issue and set some boundaries.

APPROACH YOUR SPOUSE ABOUT ALL-CONSUMING HOBBIES

First, be empathic and have respect for your spouse’s interests. Even though you’re feeling upset, it’s important to approach your spouse with care. Chances are, they want to have a healthy relationship too, so speak the truth lovingly as you let them know what you need.

You need to be able to tell your spouse, “I love your hobby, and I’d never ask you to let it go. But it’s almost like you’re absent because your hobby is getting all your good energy.”

Let your spouse know that is feels like the obsession is beginning to take over, and while you want them to continue being able to enjoy their interests, you’re going to need more focused time with them–just the two of you.

Rather than complaining, brainstorm some good suggestions before your approach your spouse. Ask your spouse to block off 1 or 2 nights a week to spend with you, for date night, family movie night, or something similar. This will help them feel like they’ve still got freedom to spend time on their hobby, but now they know what your desires and and what is expected of them.

The biggest payoff for you? You won’t have to worry every night whether you’re going to get any attention from your spouse. You’ll be free to feel more enthusiastic about your spouse’s hobby because you’ll feel like there’s a part of them reserved for you.

TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF

Now that your spouse has agreed to set some time aside to spend with you, it’s time for you to decide how to spend time when they’re occupied with their hobby. When he or she has an activity planned, schedule some time with your friends or take your kids on a fun outing.

Whatever you do, give yourself something to look forward to! Don’t let yourself get bogged down and angry over a list of things your spouse isn’t doing while they’re engaged in their hobby. Fuming about your husband or wife taking time for their hobby isn’t going to do you any good, so find ways to enjoy yourself instead.

And you never know–when you start taking some time to do your own thing while they do theirs, they might even begin to miss you.

LEARN TO SHARE YOUR SPOUSE’S HOBBY

Once you’ve established your designated time together every week and decided to start making your own plans outside those days, it’s time to start investing some of your energy into their hobby. That may sound strange, but stay with us here.

Sometimes the greatest times of connection you’ll have with your spouse are when you purposefully step into his or her passion and spend a little time there instead of fighting against it. You might find that you share the best conversations or experiences together during these times.

Finding that shared experience together is the key–that’s when your spouse’s spirit will really open up. They’ll feel valued because you took the time to step into their happy place, to share that passion for an activity or interest that is obviously very important to them. And they’ll feel energized because not only are they participating in something that gives them joy; now they’re getting to share it with you.

There are so many opportunities for deep, meaningful intimacy to be forged just by showing interest in something your husband or wife loves. Ask questions to enter your spouse’s world as much as possible, see what’s good about it, then share it to the degree that you can. Why not be a part of something your spouse enjoys, in some way?

If you and your spouse or partner would like help with your relationship, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.